Sony predicts 10 million PlayStation 2 sales

Sony predicts 10 million PlayStation 2 sales

Brushing aside an embarrassing recall of utility discs shipped with its month-old PlayStation 2 game console, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) yesterday forecast it will sell 10 million units of the new machine around the world in the 12 months starting from April.

Preliminary forecasts call for sales of 4 million units in Japan with a further 3 million in Europe and the same number in the US, SCEI president Ken Kutaragi said at a Tokyo press conference. The console was launched in Japan on March 4 and will hit the retail shelves in the latter two markets later this year.

In the Japanese market, SCEI said it expects total sales from the launch date to March 30, the end of the current fiscal year, will total 1.4 million units. The majority of these, some 900,000 units, have been sold through conventional retail channels but the company succeeded in selling 500,000 units through its recently established online store operated by Japan.

The website, which is helping Sony accomplish its goal of becoming closer to the consumer, has attracted 540,000 registered users as of last night, said Kutaragi. Selling a variety of products from the PlayStation 2 console itself to games and accessories, it has handled 592,000 orders amounting to 21 billion yen (US$199.4 million) in revenue, he said.

For the coming year, the company will not only work on launching the new console overseas but in laying the ground for broadband services to be offered to console owners. Kutaragi predicted broadband services will become available in Japan in 2001 and, through the console and these services, SCEI plans to become the "forerunners of eSony."

He also committed to continuing development of the semiconductor technology used inside the machine. Sony produces the central processor for the PlayStation 2, the so-called "Emotion Engine," with Toshiba Corp.

The updated outlook and smiles contrasted with an admission by SCEI yesterday in a written statement that it was recalling software shipped with the system because it contained a number of bugs.

The utility CD-ROM disc that shipped with the PlayStation 2 will be recalled after it came to light that the DVD (digital versatile disc) player software contains a bug that allows users to override the region coding system. This system is intended to prevent users watching discs other than those sold in the region in which they live and is a vital part of the copyright-control system. The problem became apparent when instructions on how to modify the software began appearing on the internet.

SCEI said in a statement that it will exchange for no charge the utility discs, either by mail or through any Seven-Eleven convenience store in Japan, and also work on making hardware modifications that prevent the faulty software from being loaded into future consoles.

The new software also fixes two other problems with the DVD software. They are the occasional decrease in level of the analog audio output of the machine and interruptions to the audio that sometimes occurs through the digital audio output, the statement said.

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